Think, Plan, Write, Edit, Repeat

The mantra of the writer — both published and unpublished and soon-to-be-published-again-someday-maybe — should really be: HURRY UP AND WAIT.

The career comes in fits and starts, feast and famine. A flurry of activity and a dead run into Nowheresville — a cursor spinning, crickets chirping, tumbleweeds tumbling, zombies gumming each other with rotten teeth just outside a Bed, Bath and Beyond.

It’s like drinking a glass of ice water and suddenly an ice cube dam releases and your face is suddenly the target of an ice cube avalanche and then your shirt is wet and your pants are wet and people think you aggressively urinated on yourself. Then you’re out of water and it’s like, “Hey, when do I get more water?” and the only response is a bewildering, sympathetic shrug. The glass sits empty for months and your mouth goes dry until suddenly — a firehose knocks you back.

You write a book, you put it out there.

Agent, editor, self-pub, whatever.

And maybe something happens, and maybe it doesn’t.

You sit, you wait, you gnaw your hand watching your email or your sales numbers.

Then maybe, movement — you claw your way to the next level but then that level is just another waiting room, another soul-crushing DMV line, another Satanic circle-jerk inside the deepest folds of Purgatorial Fuck-All. You get an agent, you wait. You get a book deal, you wait. The book releases, you wait. You wait for sales numbers. Royalties. Advances. This thing. The next thing. The thing after that. The career is a lot of you putting yourself out there and then you standing alone in a cornfield waiting until you’re pretty sure you’re going to be eaten by scarecrows.

That’ll kick you right in the spirit.

I’ve been there.

Every writer has been there, or gets there, eventually.

It’s normal.

It sucks.

And you can fix it. (Or, at least, make it easier.)

All those things are outside your control. Your publisher, your sales numbers, which editors bite, which editors don’t, what reviews you get, all of that — you don’t control it. You vaguely affect it, ideally by writing a book that’s really good, though plenty of writers have written not-so-good books that tickled the pop culture pineal gland and made a success anyway, and certainly plenty of writers have written amazing fucking books that either got published and then promptly pooped the bed or never even got published in the first fucking place. It is what it is. This career is unpredictable and success is sadly not predicated on producing quality material, but screw it.

You do what you can do.

And what you can do is:

Think about writing.

Then plan your writing.

Then fucking write.

Then edit the unholy shit-demons out of it once it’s finished.

Then you do it all again.

Think, plan, write, edit, repeat.

Purity exists in this simple sequence. It’s elegant. It’s direct. And it’s entirely within your control. The other gears and flywheels will turn, and sometimes they need you to give them a push or check in to make sure they’re oiled and whirling appropriately, but then? Get back out and get back to work. Many stories swirl around your head. This is how you exorcize them and stop them from possessing your brain so that you can trap them in the containment unit of ink and page. Focus on what matters. Don’t get lost in the tempest of the industry. Stay on target.

Think, plan, write, edit, repeat. Each stage takes the time that it takes. There’s no clock, there’s no gun to your head. It’s on you to decide how much time you need to take. But take the time. Thieve the time from other activities. Make effort. Be active. Push, urge, growl, fight, fuck, spit, get shit done. Don’t stop. Don’t languish. Don’t give into inertia or ennui. Don’t fall to doubt or fear. Don’t stare overlong at the industry. Be a maker, a creator, a teller, a doer.






Times infinity, until dead.

36 responses to “Think, Plan, Write, Edit, Repeat”

    • I thought about that, honestly, and for the artful convenience of it I considered it! But not every writer is going to outline and so it’d be a thing with a bit asterisk next to it — but I think all writers plan to some degree or another, even if in a pantser-appropriate way.

  1. Thanks for reminding me that “think” and “plan” are part of it. I was starting to get pissed that I’m not doing more of the tippity-typing bits – but I *do* have a fuckload of outline, character & backstory percolating in the “stovetop” parts of my brain. When I get to the point of “vomiting words out onto paper/screen”, I have to set reminders to eat. 😀

  2. Cue Porkins – STAY ON TARGET! Thanks for this, Chuck – it’s hard in the “write, wait, wait, wait – oh I should be writing more” phases.

  3. Yes! exactly, this. The waiting is almost intolerable. Don’t these people KNOW I am waiting? Don’t they know my heart is in a vice and my chest is so tight I cannot breathe and why can’t they hurry up? don’t they get it?

    Of course they do. They just don’t care.

    So I will:

    write something else
    only look at Facebook twice a day (ok, maybe three)
    write on my blog without obsessively checking to see if anyone liked or shared a post (ha!)
    take antacids on a regular basis
    wear gloves so I stop chewing my nails

    Back to my current WIP. I have a great character I’m playing with. A talking warthog mafia enforcer with a lisp named Wally. At least he seems to appreciate me. 🙂

  4. I’ve went from writing and editing backwards to thinking and planning. Mostly because my last WIP was gargabe. It’s weird how when I was writing it I was all Tom Hanks in Castaway.


    Came back after a two week vacation and it turned out the fire was caused by the methane from my word-fartery.

  5. I loop through this cascade once per scene/chapter/sequence. It’s super annoying to have a nice long chunk of “writing” time spent 100% on staring blankly at nothing while I think with every brain cell I have. Thanks for the reminder that it still counts as work.

  6. Sensei, you fill my heart and mind, as always. I’m still following your 350 words/day minimum. I think, plan when not writing. I write my target or more every morning. I edit previous work in the afternoon. You bring sanity to the creative chaos. Thank you for sharing with the world.

  7. Is there a cult or something that I can sign up for? Can I just kind of follow you into the abyss?

  8. Thank you for this helpful post, which has slightly ameliorated my day (one among many days) in a purgatory waiting room with only many sticky outdated magazines and a couple editorial NOPEs to pass the time.

  9. I already have Book 1 out there, and it’s making a modest splash, but now I’m at the edit-the-unholy-shit-demons-out-of-it-once-it’s-finished phase for Book 2 in the series, and it’s driving me crazy. I made some plot changes that promise to make it a better story, but that’s requiring lots of checking over of other parts, and rewriting, and re-thinking. Rejiggering. And juggling. I can’t keep the whole book in my head at this stage and it’s taunting me like an evil, crap-throwing monkey that I can’t quite catch to shove into its nifty little organ grinder’s assistant’s coat and cap (that was a wobbly, ill-worded metaphor for the cover, which is already complete and looks fabulous.) I wanted Book 2 to be unleashed on the world by July 31st, but that isn’t going to happen, so I’d better get grinding at that slippery crank yet again, dammit.

    Thank you, Chuck, I feel better now.

  10. Good timing. Just sent the second book of my current trilogy project off to the beta readers and now- after four months and 100k+ words -I’m all “What do I do? What do I do? Where’d that fucking scarecrow come from?”

    Suddenly, The Wendig appears and cuts the scarecrow down with a single blow from his mighty word-fist and screams, “ART HARDER, MOTHERFUCKER!”

    So, if you’ll excuse me, I have a trilogy to finish.

    Thanks, Chuck.

  11. Chuck, if you voice record this whole article and put some soothing music in the background, you’ve got yourself a quick guided meditation video for writers.

    I really like this article. Thanks for sharing it!

  12. My process is a small variation of this. Think write ‘edit and plan’ think write ‘edit and plan’ etc. For me, ‘edit and plan’ are my favourite parts, but I suppose everyone has their own way.
    I should also probably note I haven’t published a damn thing…

  13. Dear Chuck Wendig,

    It is thanks to discovering your blog that I finally got off my procrastinatin’ arse and completed my first ever complete first draft of a novel. It is thanks to continuing to devour your blog on a regular basis that I am still redrafting and editing the bejaysus out of it (as opposed to getting disheartened and giving up – again, like so many other times in the past.) And when I finally get it to a publishable standard and then publish it – either by trad or by self (by which time I may look like Yoda’s anaemic twin sister or I may not) it will also be thanks to your wise words in their millions on this blog.

    Waiting is what I feel like I’m doing forever, even as I’m writing. But this post today has reminded me that this is okay. You and chocolate always get me through, and for that I thank you.

  14. Man oh, MAN…. STAMINA! Every time I read your blog I am inspired… Today is nothing new… I have this APP… Balanced…you insert things you’d “like” to include in your life, albeit daily, weekly, monthly etc…. It reminds you with a text when you’ve fallen behind the goals you have so tediously projected. I keep getting this reminder text, “You really should think about writing…”… and I want to laugh and scream all at the same time. So…thanks for the blogs and your elaborately smooth way of cursing. :))

  15. It’s good to be reminded of that cycle. Because, hell, there’s no gratification any where else. I bob up and down on the emotional cycle. It’s hell. But after all. The stories keep coming and I keep writing them. Maybe my daughter will profit from them.

  16. Thank you so much for this blog, I definitely needed to hear it. I have one book of my trilogy published that is going nowhere, and a second in editing which will be out soon. But because I found your blog months ago, your story is an inspiration to me to keep going- keep writing- no matter what. I’m not ready to give up! I may be a terrible blogger/social media persona, but I’m working on it. I have so many stories both fiction and non-fiction that I not just want, but need to get out of my head and into a book. You are an inspiration to me, especially since I like it when you curse, it makes me feel you are down to earth. Thank you!! Back to writing I go.

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